|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Peter Lloyd : One-parent benefit is paid to 670,000 claimants and estimated expenditure on it in 1988-89 is £169 million. There is at present no procedure for reviewing entitlement to the benefit. Procedures for postal
Column 294review of claims exist for a number of other social security benefits such as income support and invalidity benefit. We have therefore decided that arrangements for postal review of claims to one -parent benefit should be introduced. A postal review of existing claims will be conducted, starting in February. In addition a procedure for regular postal review of new claims will be introduced and this will begin in 1990.
Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will ease the criteria for social security payment of funeral costs in the light of the findings of the Office of Fair Trading that the estate of a deceased person or insurance payments fails to meet the full cost of the funeral in 28 per cent. of cases, and social security payments contribute in 3 per cent. of cases.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : The introduction of social fund funeral payments in April 1987 extended help with meeting the cost of a simple funeral, which had previously been available only to people receiving supplementary benefit, to all on low incomes, whether in work or out of it. People who are in receipt of income support, family credit or housing benefit are eligible. We plan to lay regulations before the House shortly to extend eligibility for funeral payments, as from April 1989, to people in Scotland who receive a community charge rebate and, from April 1990, to those in England, Wales and Scotland who receive a community charge benefit. We believe that it is right to concentrate help in this manner and that a family who can afford to pay funeral costs which cannot be met from the deceased's estate should be expected to do so.
Sir Ian Gilmour : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish figures showing expenditure on social security benefits for one-parent families in 1969, 1970, 1980 and each year thereafter, at constant 1988-89 prices and as percentages of all social security benefit expenditure for families with children in each year.
£ million, Great Britain |Social security<1> |Expenditure as percentage |expenditure on lone |of total social security |parents<2> (1988-89 |expenditure on families |prices) |with children<3> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1981-82 |1,860 |28 1982-83 |2,090 |30 1983-84 |2,300 |32 1984-85 |2,420 |32 1985-86 |2,640 |35 1986-87 |2,920 |37 1987-88 |3,110 |40 1988-89 |3,390 |43 <1> Benefits included are: One parent benefit, supplementary benefit/income support, housing benefit, child benefit, maternity benefit and family income supplement/family credit. <2> Excludes widows with children. <3> Family benefits are those paid on account of family responsibilities. Benefits included in the definition are: Child benefit, one parent benefit, family income supplement/family credit, maternity benefit and supplementary benefit/income support and housing benefit paid to lone parent families.
Mr. Steel : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will take steps to remove the anomaly whereby a widow may claim a range of benefits on the death of her husband the level of which is dependent on his contribution record, whereas a widower is not eligible for any such benefits although his wife's earnings may have contributed equally or solely to the family's income.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : A draft European Community directive which aims to complete the process of implementing the principle of equal treatment for men and women in statutory and occupational social security schemes is currently under consideration. This directive, if implemented in its present form, would require the application of equal treatment to benefits for survivors.
Mr. Speller : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of the adult working population he assesses as being below the poverty line ; and what percentage was below the poverty line in 1984 and 1979.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : There is no official definition of "poverty" and no generally agreed way in which to qualify it. Nor has there ever been any suggestion or acceptance by any Government, irrespective of party, that it is possible to draw any simple poverty line.
Mr. Greg Knight : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action he will be taking following receipt of the report from the Occupational Pensions Board on the balance of interests between employers and occupational scheme members.
Mr. Moore : I have today laid before Parliament the report by the Occupational Pensions Board on the balance of interests between employers and occupational scheme members. The report is being published today as Cm. 573, "Protecting Pensions : Safeguarding Benefits in a Changing Environment". We are considering the recommendations, and will find it valuable to know the views of interested organisations and individuals to inform that process. I am therefore, today, launching a three-month consultation exercise to seek the general reaction to the report. Responses should be sent by 30 April to : DSS, Room 429, Friars House, 157-168 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8EU.
Mr. Arbuthnot : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will announce the revised allocation of social fund budgets for the offices at Rhyl and Deeside following the transfer of responsibility for Bagillt from Rhyl to Deeside.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : On 30 January 1989 the area of Bagillt previously served by the office at Rhyl became the responsibility of the office at Deeside. Accordingly the allocations to Rhyl and Deeside have been adjusted. The new allocations are as follows :
|Grants budget |Loans budget |Period of allocation |(£) |(£) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Rhyll |108,524 |250,048 |11 April 1988 |to 31 March 1989 Deeside |54,380 |128,567 |<1>23 May 1988 |to 31 March 1989 <1> Deeside office opened on 23 May 1988.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The possible transfer of the Gourock- Dunoon and Wemyss Bay-Rothesay routes to the private sector will be a matter for the new board of Caledonian MacBrayne to consider once it has been appointed by my right hon. and learned Friend.
18. Mr. Redwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has received any request from those organising the constitutional convention for the use of the old high school buildings in Edinburgh ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : The average level of community charge in Scotland in 1989-90, including community water charge will be £301, as compared with the average charge of £267, which would have been required had authorities budgeted only to increase their spending in line with inflation. It is clear that many authorities have budgeted to increase their spending by well over the rate of inflation, and I expect that their community charge payers will call them to account in due course.
23. Mr. Steel : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will seek to remove the anomaly in the community charge regulations whereby people with a severe mental impairment have been given exemption from paying the community charge whereas people with degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease will not quality for exemption.
Mr. Rifkind : The question whether people with degenerative brain disorders should be exempt from liability to pay the community charge was considered in detail during the parliamentary stages of the community charge legislation. It was recognised that considerable difficulties and potential for unfairness would be involved in assessing precisely when such a person reached a level of impairment at which an exemption would be appropriate. I remain satisfied that there are no grounds for extending the present exemptions for people who are severely mentally impaired to include those with degenerative brain disorders.
Mr. Lang : The community charge rebate scheme will ensure that nobody will be required to pay more community charge than they are able to afford. It is estimated that over 1 million people in Scotland will benefit from the scheme. The calculation of people's eligibility for rebate takes account of a wide range of circumstances including their financial circumstances and whether they are disabled. In addition, the community charge provides for exemption from the community charge for certain groups of people, including those with severe mental impairment and long-stay patients in hospitals, residential care homes, nursing homes or hostels.
26. Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what account he took in reaching his estimate of the 1989-90 average poll tax levy for each regional and district authority of demand for education, housing and other services that these authorities are responsible for and of the likely increase of the cost of providing such services.
Mr. Lang : Our estimates were based on local authorities' own budgeted relevant current expenditure for 1988-89, plus 6 per cent., plus allowances for the additional costs of community charge administration and school boards. Most housing costs fall on the housing revenue account and do not directly affect the levels of community charges.
Mr. Lang : Representations that a personal identifier would be required for each individual liable for the personal community charge were made by local authority practitioners during the passage of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987. Following those representations a requirement for all such individuals to supply registration officers with their date of birth was inserted into the Act. A number of individuals and organisations made representations against the proposal. The development of computer systems is a matter for individual local authorities and my right hon. and learned Friend has made no recommendation to them on whether personal identifiers should be used and, if so, on what basis.
30. Mr Bill Walker : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what sanctions he takes against a regional council that is printing and distributing official forms which describe the community charge as a poll tax ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : I strongly deprecate the use by a local authority of the term "poll tax" in relation to the community charge. It is misleading to do so because it implies, quite wrongly, that there is a connection between liability to pay the community charge and the right to vote. The community charges register and the electoral register are drawn up on different criteria for quite separate purposes.
31. Mr. Ron Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has received recent representations from the Scottish Trades Union Congress about the community charge in Scotland ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : My right hon. and learned Friend has received no recent representations from the Scottish Trades Union Congress on the community charge. The matter was not raised wth me by the STUC during my meeting with them on 27 January.
Mr. Lang : The Government do not intend to extend the exemptions from the community charge to include people who are physically handicapped and no assessment of the cost of such an extension has therefore been made.
Mr. Lang : Judgments about the habitability of properties are the responsibility of the community charges registration officer. His decisions are subject to appeal in the usual way. A system whereby such judgments were left to the owners of the properties concerned would be unworkable. The standard community charge is not payable on houses subject to closing or demolition orders or which are incapable of being lived in because they are being repaired, improved or reconstructed. Caravans,
Column 299huts, sheds, bothies or other similar structures which are intended to be used for residential purposes but are not, for any reason habitable throughout the year will remain subject to rating and will not be liable for the standard charge.
Mr. Lang : My right hon. and learned Friend has received a number of representations from sufferers of Alzheimer's disease regarding payment of the community charge. A response to the points raised in these representations has recently been issued.
Mr. Lang : Responsibility for the compilation of community charges register rests with individual community charges registration officers and precise information about the levels of registration are not available. Initial indicators suggest, however, that the average level of registration throughout Scotland is around 99 per cent. of those liable to pay the community charge. This clearly demonstrates the failure of those campaigning against the community charge to make any impact.
Mr. Lang : Schedule 1A to the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987, as amended by the Local Government Finance Act 1988, defines a "residential care home" and exempts someone who is solely or mainly resident in such a home from personal community charge liability.
The Abolition of Domestic Rates (Domestic and Part Residential Subjects) (Scotland) Regulations 1988, which were laid before the House on 24 August 1988, determine the extent to which a residential care home will be treated as a domestic subject for the purposes of section 2 of the 1987 Act.
The Standard and Collective Community Charges (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1988, which were laid on 9 September 1988, provide for exemption from the standard community charge for persons who are exempt from the personal community charge by virtue of being solely or mainly resident in a residential care home.
50. Mr. Strang : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will issue advice to local authorities about how best to estimate the proportion of their theoretical maximum poll tax income which will not be collected, taking into account all known factors including deliberate evasion of the registration process ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : It is estimated that about 96,000 full-time students will be required to pay the 20 per cent. contribution towards the personal community charge and personal community water charge for which such students are liable.
57. Mr. Hood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will agree to meet a deputation from the Scottish Trades Union Congress to discuss its views on the poll tax ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : My right hon. and learned Friend will as always consider any requests from the Scottish Trades Union Congress for a meeting. No request for a meeting about the community charge has, however, been received. I met the general council of the STUC on Friday 27 January when the issue of the community charge was not raised.
59. Mr. McFall : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider seeking to amend the community charge legislation, to exempt individuals with degenerative brain disorders from paying the poll tax.
Mr. Lang : The question whether people with degenerative brain disorders should be exempt from liability to pay the community charge was considered in detail during the parliamentary stages of the community charge legislation. It was recognised that considerable difficulties and potential for unfairness would be involved in assessing precisely when such a person reached a level of impairment at which an exemption would be appropriate. I remain satisfied that there are no grounds for extending the present exemptions for people who are severely impaired to include those with degenerative brain disorders.
60. Mr. Galloway : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had from the National Union of Students, Scottish area, about the impact of the community charge on Scottish students ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : The National Union of Students was consulted about a number of sets of regulations concerning students which have been made under the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 and its comments were taken fully into account. It has also been consulted on a draft information leaflet about the community charge which is to be made available to students, and its comments are being considered.
67. Mr. McAvoy : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the number of mentally handicapped people in Scotland ; and how many of them are eligible for exemption from payment of the poll tax.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : It is not possible to give exact figures or reliable estimates of the total number of people with mental handicap in Scotland since reported prevalence rates for milder degrees of mental handicap show wide variation.
People with severe mental handicap may be eligible for exemption from liability to pay the community charge if they are severely mentally impaired within the meaning of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 as amended and meet the qualifying conditions.
The joint Scottish Home and Health Department--social work services group consultation document of 22 October 1987 on proposals for exempting people with severe mental handicap indicated that an estimated three per 1,000 of the population suffered from severe mental handicap and that the figure included those who were in-patients in mental handicap hospitals and those under 18 years of age.
69. Mr. Canavan : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will introduce legislation to stop warrant sales being used against people who refuse to pay the poll tax or fines associated with the poll tax.
70. Mr. David Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the total number of retirement pensioners in Scotland who will not have to pay the full amount of the poll tax ; and what percentage of the total number of retirement pensioners in Scotland this figure represents.
Column 302opened at the beginning of October, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland has received 102 applications containing proposals for planting almost 1,200 hectares of land.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Almost 92,000 council houses and flats in Scotland were sold under the right-to-buy legislation from October 1980 to end September 1988. This is clear evidence of the success of the Government's right-to-buy policy and has made a major contribution to the diversification of ownership in Scotland.
32. Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many council properties have been sold to their tenants in Scotland since 1979 ; and what proportion of Scottish houses are now in owner-occupation.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The number of dwellings sold by Scottish local authorities to sitting tenants in the period from April 1979 to September 1988 was 95,075. Over 44 per cent. of Scottish houses are now in owner-occupation.
29. Mr. Lambie : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has met representatives of the Chemical Industry Association to discuss the proposals on industrial rating contained in its recent representations to him ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang : I met representatives of the Chemical Industries Association in Glasgow on 13 January. We had a useful discussion on the proposals for reform of the industrial rating system in Scotland put forward by that association in its recent briefing paper "Scottish Industrial Rates : The Need for Change". The association's representatives accepted that radical change was not possible before the 1990 revaluation, but I was able to assure them that we are giving serious consideration to the prescription of decapitalisation rates north and south of the border for 1990, and to moving to a common approach on the treatment of plant and machinery as soon as possible after that. I also assured the association of our commitment to achieving harmonisation, and to moving to a common non- domestic rate in all areas.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : By the end of December, Scottish health boards had awarded 43 contracts for domestic and catering services producing estimated savings, for reinvestment in direct patient care, of nearly £15.4 million over the next three years. Further blocks of services are now being put out to tender.
Mr. Lang : The task of harmonisation is a complex one, but significant progress is being made and the full extent of this will become apparent in 1990. Our commitment to fairness for business ratepayers north and south of the border is not in doubt, and we intend to see through the programme of reform on which we have embarked.